Deities and Demigods: Cyclopedia of Gods and Heroes from Myth and Legend (Advanced D&D) Hardcover – 1980
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Deities & Demigods Cyclopedia provides the Dungeon Master with gods, heroes and monsters from myth, fiction and legend for use in rounding out an Advanced D&D campaign. Within this book are fifteen pantheons of divinities, each profusely illustrated. Also included are new material on clerics' conduct and their relationships with their deities, information on character mortality and immortality, and more!
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But the most legendary point of the book is, of course, official AD&D stats for Cthulhu and others in the Lovecraft mythos -- and they are bruisers.
Don't let the deities' stat blocks fool you into thinking the gods are there like other monsters -- for the purpose of "kill it and take its stuff." These gods are GODS -- they have stats only to be used "if absolutely necessary." Any of these deities could reasonably be expected to kill a PC of almost any level within a round or two (and some, like Cthulhu, could even make short work of some of the toughest critters from the Monster Manual such as Demogorgon or Orcus). Use them sparingly as direct combat opponents (although sending Cthulhu [400 HP, 30 attacks (you read that right) of a damage level I don't recall, but obscenely high] against a "full of itself, 'let's rip the moustache off the king and raid his treasury'" party might just knock some sense into them <evil laugh>), instead trying to use them as either patrons or prime movers -- The PCs probably would never face Loki or Izumo, but might be fighting fire giants or Ogre Magi/Oni that the gods are directing.
One thing -- make sure to look carefully at the product description. If you want just any copy, any edition of this book (or the identical-but-for-a-different-cover-and-title Legends and Lore) are extremely serviciable. But if you're a collector, or are looking to use the 1st Edition stats for the Cthulhu or Melinebone (sp?) mythoi, be sure the product description states that it is the first edition -- after that (and perhaps a second printing), TSR decided to take the stats out rather than have to give a "thank you" credit to Chaosium. However, some later printings have the "thank you" note without the stats (they hadn't gotten around to changing the plates) -- therefore get the first printing and you're assured of Lovecraftian goodness.
I must confess, first off, that I have not as yet read Deities and Demigods. I've ordered it, however, and expect it to arrive in the next day or so. I was lead to purchase it because the Planescape campaign supplement "On Hallowed Ground" referenced the Finnish, Sumerian and Babylonian pantheons, and those gods and characters originally appeared in Deities and Demigods and NO PLACE ELSE. I already own and use other books similar to Deities and Demigods -- including Legends and Lore, Monster Mythology, and the Forgotten Realms campaign setting's "Faiths and Avatars" series of books.
I own and use these books because I know why they include avatar statistics. The few reviewers who gave this book unflattering star-ratings, however, clearly do not understand this concept. And therefore, this book is not for them and they likely wasted their money aquiring it.
If you understand that sometimes the AD&D game requires stat blocks for the creatures and characters that appear in it, and if you also understand that a deity's avatar is NOT the deity itself (but rather an incarnation that probably requires game stats), then you should probably pick up a copy of this book.
Those who complain about this book probably haven't read it. If they had, they would have seen in the intro that the authors did not intend this to be a book of adversaries (although they wrote up the avatar's stats for them if needed), but instead to be a quick reference for these different pantheons, some of which cannot be found in the reference section of the library (when did you last see a scholarly work on Lolth, Blibdoolpoolp, or Vaprak the Destroyer?). They also mention that if a particular mythos captures your interest, you should journey to your local library to research it. In other words, this is a game supplement, not a religious text.
Personally, I used this book a lot when I was running games back in the glory days of AD&D. I loved creating settings using the Norse or Celtic mythoi, and having the quick reference along with information about the avatars of the gods (important when dealing with gods with a "hands-on" approach such as the Norse) was at times quite useful. Also, it gave a starting point for research that would have otherwise taken longer, giving the names and general spheres of influence of a number of gods and goddesses that I was not then familiar with.
Yes, the use of still-used mythoi could be seen in this PC age as incorrect, but the only difference between a religion and a myth cycle is whether or not people still believe in it. To the Norse, their religion was all-encompassing, yet nobody complains these days about the comic book character The Mighty Thor. And look at the abuse the Greek mythos has taken in popular media, yet the Greeks manage to take it all in stride. Lighten up, people.
The description of the product doesn't say, so I am assuming what they are selling here is a second-edition or later book. The difference is that the first edition contained the Cthulhu and Melnibonean mythoi, based on the works of Lovecraft and Moorcock, respectively. The problem was, Chaosium (a rival games maker) already had the rights to those works, and TSR violated those rights when they printed their book. The material in question was removed for later printings, making the first edition an instant collector's item.